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Watteam Powerbeat Review
This Watteam Powerbeat Review takes a close look at an accurate, budget, crank-based powermeter system with lots of options.WatTeam recently released their 2nd generation of power meter. It’s dual-sided and dual-band (ANT+ & BTLE). That makes it generally appealing to a wider market. However at $499 it also comes with an attractively ‘low’ price tag. You won’t find another dual-sided offering from a company you’ve heard of at that price point.
Is there a catch?
Read on and we shall see. However the things to watch out for are: DIY installation; accuracy; and durability of the design. The other notable catch would be that these are permanently attached to your cranks unlike a pedal-based solution which you can switch between bikes. Of course such switchable pedals would cost 50% more…
INSTALLATION, UNBOXING, PAIRING & FIRST CALIBRATION
The installation is covered in great detail in (this post): WatTeam PowerBeat – Installation, Unboxing, Pairing & First Calibration. It’s not an overly exciting read but the “ease” of installation of this product is KEY to its success, so you might care to take a look if you are genuinely thinking of buying one. (Edit: from 18 September Watteam offer an installation service for a fairly priced $99, including postage…I would recommend that)
Installation is a one-off exercise and so I’ve moved that section to a link as readers tend to be less interested in that. However if you are unsure of YOUR DIY bike skills then I would urge you to have a read of the detail and see what you might be letting yourself in for! it took me longer than I expected and I installed on 2x cranksets.
Here is a summary of the more salient installation issues:
- Crank compatibility – the POWERBEAT will EXPLICITY NOT work on every crank. Indeed only a relatively limited selection of popular cranks are supported. Look in the manual (here).
- Installation is relatively OK but you might be daunted by the worry of making an irreversible mistake when gluing the sensors to the cranks with industrial strength adhesive. (Edit: as from 18 September you can get it installed at a service centre)
- The stated installation time of 30 minutes is a little hopeful. It will most likely take you 2 hours spread over 2 days.
- Instructions are clear and detailed. You MUST also follow the installation with an accompanying app (no exceptions) which is integral to the installation and setup process.
- The COMP PODs and SPACERS can add up to 6mm to your Q-factor – if you don’t know what Q-factor/pedal centre is then don’t worry.
- The mandatory calibration app requires Android 4.4.2 and iOS 10.0 or above.
- The hardware design is generally good for the method of attachment it is trying to achieve. My longer term worry would be catching the PowerBeat whilst transporting the bike – the same concern I have for the Garmin Vector 2s. The PowerBeat is SMALLER and LESS likely to be caught. I’ve also read some concerns about the PODS not properly adhering to Ultegra 6800 cranks.
FIRST RIDE – Watteam Powerbeat Review
It’s a power meter. If the battery is charged and the power meter is paired and calibrated then it’s ‘just another sensor’
There doesn’t seem to be any particular delay or unusual behaviour.
Calibrating each day takes a few seconds and is made easier if your head unit auto-prompts you to do it eg Garmin Edge.
I found that establishing the ANT+ pairing was as quick as with any other PM. A few seconds, at most, from spinning the cranks.
When the cranks are spun a fairly large LED comes on which is much easier to see than on the BePros, for example.
When cycling there were no dropouts that I noticed and the various moving averages for time seemed no different in their responsiveness to those from any other PM I’ve used.
Stopping for extended, coffee-related periods induced no unexpected behaviour ie I returned to the bike (head unit left running) and the ANT+ sensor was picked up again when it woke up.
The pod doesn’t get in the way at all. I have the sensor cable taped down…that cable might catch on something if not properly taped down.
All good when in use.
I had a cunning plan for doing some clever comparisons. Unfortunately I was unable to install Garmin Vector pedals on the same crank as the Powerbeat. As shown to the right their respective pods get in the way of each other.
I am in the process (Aug2017) of reviewing the accuracy of the Powerbeat – on factory installed and calibrated cranks (ie I didn’t do the installation). I now have a new KICKR and a pair of new ASSIOMA to compare to as well as bePRO and P1.
Here’s a good one for starters showing ASSIOMA (duo) vs Watteam Powerbeat (dual) vs WAHOO KICKR. compared to the WAHOO, the ASSIOMA was +4w on average and the Powerbeat +6w. Factoring in drive train losses that sounds about right.
The next chart is a little more interesting as I use a circular chainring for the first half and then an oval for the second half. It’s discussed a bit more here (link to: the5krunner.com). This little ride gave me no reason to doubt the manufacturer’s claim that the POWERBEAT is consistent with OVAL chainrings – that’s something that CANNOT be said about all the pedal-based solutions eg ASSIOMA and bePRO overestimate power with oval chainrings.
On this next chart there’s an early dropout that could be due to me banging something but the noteworthy parts are the first two peaks where the PowerBeat drops off fractionally early. At 500w I guess we could argue that most of us don’t go there too often but that argument wouldn’t hold true at 400w. This ride was slightly unusual in that I was manually adjusting the trainer resistance and, for a technical reason, I only had the inner ring available so there was quite a bit of chain clunking going on.
And, finally, here is an adjusted chart of mine, also with a 10 second offset this time as well (sigh). These are a few minute-long efforts at over 300w and then an attempt at an all-out max on a flat road (the 800w spike). As above, other than me having to adjust the average levels, the two match well considering we don’t know if either one is right.
I have been using the POWERBEAT since this review with the various Assioma, bePRO, P1 pedals and with the KICKR. The results have been pretty ‘solid’ and ‘consistent’ and I will update some more charts above in due course.
CHANGING BETWEEN BIKES
The PowerBeat app clearly already includes functionality for their stated intention to allow the pods (not sensors) to be transferred to another bike.
If you had identical cranks then you probably could switch the pods on those cranks to another bike.
My charts, above, are all from the same bike/cranks. I did change the COMPLETE cranks from bike to bike. After you’ve done this a few times you then become quite familiar with the re-calibration using the supplied water bags. It gets much easier with repetition. I suppose that re-calibration might not have been required but I played safe.
The main problem I had here was with the Android app. I used several phones because the Bluetooth connection was not sufficiently robust. Indeed I wasted MANY hours trying Android-based calibrations. HINT: Use an iPhone. I do have an iPhone but the Bluetooth is broke for some reason and my iPAD has too old a version of iOS for the PowerBeat app…sigh.
I tried a few Bluetooth head units/watches but pretty much gave up quite quickly. It seems pointless using an AMBIT/SPARTAN for this product where only one side of power is used. I did not have success with the Polar M460, although it should work on the M450 which is essentially the same in regards to Bluetooth power meter pairing (Source: Polar).
RESOURCES + TRIVIA
- Manual (here)
- Name of the strong glue: Alpha Wat 1 fast epoxy adhesive (now you know)
- You can permanently remove the sensor with a SHARP knife
- Firmware updateable through the app. It says the ‘next version is free’ which I suppose that at some point in the future there could be optional extras in the firmware.
- PowerBeat can officialy take up to 30 seconds to start transmitting (but I never found it to be that slow). After 3 minutes of non-use ‘standby mode’ is entered.
- Special metrics are produced and transmitted: Torque Effectiveness; Pedal Smoothness; cadence; dual power/balance.
SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATION
Based on my ongoing use of the Powerbeat, I am now (Aug 2017) much happier with the accuracy, particularly when compared to a smart trainer and a 3rd simultaneous device in a more controlled environment.
Here are some NEGATIVE points that stand out for me:
- The experience with the installation and calibration through the ANDROID app is poor. This is probably the fault of the handset manufacturer in many cases, not WatTeam’s developers. However the PowerBeat app just didn’t work as well connecting android to the PMs as with iOS. there are still issues with the app in Aug 2017, for example with the QR code not scanning on two Android devices.
- Installation of the sensor is angst-ridden as you only have one attempt. It will take you several hours over a 48 hour period unless you adopt a Gung-Ho attitude with your investment.
- I don’t like the way the charging cable and the sensor plug into the pod.
Here are some NEUTRAL points that stand out for me:
- The design is broadly reasonable. The weak point seems to be the cable from the sensor to the pod. If it’s taped down properly then it can be difficult to UNPLUG THE SENSOR from the POD, especially on smaller cranks where the chainring can get in the way of you pulling the power cable out.
- Pairing and initial calibration required unplugging and re-plugging the sensor into the POD many times, this probably ‘re-boots’ it for the purposes of pairing. It was a REAL faff. To make matters worse, you will still have to unplug it for periodic charging. I would have preferred (yet another) custom charging cable that ‘clipped’ on.
- Possibility of adding a second pair of sensors to a second bike that work with your original pair of pods will be a welcomed addition. (Edit: as from 18 September this is now supported)
Here are some POSITIVE points that stand out for me:
- MARKET-LEADING price for dual band/dual-sided power. (Edit: With even more significant reductions from 18 September 2017)
- If you are a DIY-biker, then these could well be for you especially if you want dual-sided, dual-band power on one or two bikes.
- The day-to-day static calibration and usage based on ANT+ is good.
- The power readings, compared to a new ASSIOMA and new KICKR, seem plausible to good and there appeared to be only very occasional dropouts.
- The extra Cycling Dynamics are a ‘nice-to-have’
- Good battery life
- The POD has a relatively low profile and so, with care, will probably not too easily get caught when you are wo/man-handling the bike around.
- I would have thought the PowerBeat will work with any pedal-cleat combo (not with any crank…only supported cranks). That’s a plus for those of you who like specific pedals/cleats as current pedal-based solutions are restrictive in the cleats they support.
- Remember, the dual-sided nature of WatTeam’s solution addresses athlete’s with power imbalances better than the inherent inaccuracies of a single-sided crank solution.
You will help this blog in a small way by purchasing from PowerMeterCity using the image to the right. You will get a 10% discount with the code the5krunner10. Non-US buyers please be aware of import duties.
PRICE, DISCOUNT, AVAILABILITY
Available now from approx US$230 … !!
There has been a massive price cut on the entire Powerbeat range which now starts at about $220 with the PowerMeterCity Discount code: the5krunner10
There is now the ability as well to get a second device also at a great discount as the ability to integrate a second bike has been added to the app. More details below